Ask The Rabbi

Question: A customer has called us and would like us to run a new beverage product as OU, but without the D. Our plant is currently only approved for OUD usage. Is it possible for us to accommodate this customer and remove the D designation? How may it be done?

Answer by Rabbi David Bistricer

Equipment that generally processes dairy must first undergo a kosher wash, or kosherization, before manufacturing pareve (non-dairy) products. A “kosherization” in actuality is a kosher sanitization of equipment previously used for non-kosher when shifting to kosher production, or in this case when switching from dairy to pareve. In theory, a kosherization is no different than a plant’s standard CIP (Cleaning In Place) or COP (Cleaning Out of Place) requirements for cleansing equipment, although the standard kosherization requirements may be more rigorous than a plant’s standard CIP.

The kosherization of a production line is often very involved, and at times can be complicated. There are two main preliminary steps before a kosherization may commence. First and foremost, machinery and equipment must be thoroughly clean of residue from previous productions. Furthermore, shared hot water loops between productions should be drained before the kosherization begins. Subsequent to residue removal, a downtime of 24 hours is ordinarily required before sanitizing wet lines, which is certainly the case with beverages. In the event that a 24-hour downtime is not possible, it may be avoided when caustic is run through the lines along with the boiling water and followed with a second boil.

Often there are misunderstandings among companies as to what a kosherization seeks to accomplish. In principle, it is no different than an allergen cleanup. The same way a company will rigorously clean its equipment from allergens, so equipment that is shared between kosher and non-kosher, or dairy and pareve, must undergo a thorough and rigorous cleaning.

The following is a summary of the basic steps of kosherization:

• Residue removal. This step alone is sufficient for equipment used at ambient temperatures, with the exception of tanks containing wet mixtures for a minimum period of 24 hours.

• 24-hour downtime. This may be avoided when caustic is present in an initial wash, followed by a second wash.

• Actual sanitization of equipment. Boiling water is required for equipment used wet. Boiling for wet lines is defined as 212° Fahrenheit. Lesser temperatures, no lower than 190°, are considered acceptable under extenuating circumstances.

The actual details of a kosherization will depend on a plant’s processing systems and will be designed for the plant in consultation with the company’s RC and RFR.

This is also an opportune time to discuss label symbol accuracy. There are different kinds of designations, and companies accustomed to maintaining dual sets of labels are often prone to making innocent errors. Confusion between the two designations among the personnel responsible for label design can lead to the wrong kosher designation placed on a label. It is therefore important to ensure that these company personnel understand the difference between the various kosher designations and that there is a formal proofreading process to check that the correct designation is used. Moreover, submitting a mock label to the Orthodox Union should become a standard procedure with each new product request. This will allow the OU as well to check and confirm that the correct designation is used.

Rabbi David Bistricer is an Orthodox Union rabbinic coordinator specializing in the baking, sauces and vegetables industries.

Rabbi David Bistricer